Amazing facts about carrier bags you probably don’t know

Plastic carrier bags seem to be getting everywhere. They have been the preferred type of carrier bag given to shoppers for some time now. Since most carrier bags are meant for single use. They end up being thrown into dustbins immediately after their contents are extracted. However, as most people have started noticing, carrier bags don’t stay in the dustbin or make it to dumping sites. Since plastic carrier bags are so light, they end up being carried by the wind becoming huge eyesores in communities and causing environmental problems of untold proportions.

Some eye-popping statistics

  1. About 5 trillion plastic bags are manufactured every year. If these bags are placed side by side, they can encircle the earth seven times.
  2. An average family can use up to 15 plastics bags per shopping trip.
  3. The amount of petroleum required to produce one carrier bag is enough to move an average car about 11 meters.
  4. In 2008, a sperm whale that had become beached in California was found to have died as a result of having ingested over 20 kilos of plastic from bags that had made their way into the ocean.
  5. The North Pacific ocean is estimated to have at least six times more plastic debris than sea plankton.

What you didn’t know about carrier bags

Carrier bags are made of plastic. While this means carrier bags should be easily recyclable, it is estimated that only about 2-3% of plastic bags get taken to recycling points. The remaining 97% end up everywhere. Plastic only degrades at a very slow rate. It takes about 700 years for plastic to start degrading and the product only completely breaks down after 1000 years. This means all the plastic that has been manufactured in the world so far is not even close to degrading.

Since it takes such a long time for plastic to break down and it is so light, most of it ends up in the oceans where it is mistaken by marine life for food. Many animals consume plastic bags and end up suffering painful deaths as the plastic wraps around their intestines, choking them to death. The animals’ bodies degrade much faster than the plastic releasing it back to the water to be consumed by another animal, leading to a sad and painful cycle.

It has been discovered that plastic is a photodegradable substance. This means when plastic starts to degrade, it gets broken down into smaller, poisonous materials that release harmful gases into the environment and poison marine animals.

What the government is doing

Following extensive research into the problems caused by plastic bags and growing public awareness about the social problems of carrier bags being found everywhere, the Government has tried to take action to restrict the use of plastic bags in the community.

Since most plastic bags come from shoppers, efforts are underway to discourage shoppers from requesting plastic bags whenever they go shopping. Most stores, by default offer shoppers alternatives to carrier bags. If a shopper insists on a plastic bag, shops are required by law to charge for them. This is all to make sure fewer people use plastic bags thereby reducing their overall impact on the environment.

What you can do to solve the problem

You can start by saying “no” to plastic bags whenever you go shopping. Rather than collecting one-time carrier bags each time you go shopping, you can buy your own custom made handle bags. These bags are more durable and are meant for long term use. Bring your own bags with you anytime you go to the store. Some stores offer you points for bringing environmentally friendly bags. You can also turn in your old bags for new ones once they start showing signs of wear and tear.

Make sure to educate your family and community about the dangers posed by plastic bags and convince them to take their bags to recycling plants. Many people continue to use carrier bags because they are unaware of just how extensive the damage they pose to the environment is. If more people are made aware and shown how they can play a part in solving what can turn out to be a big environmental problem, use of carrier bags will drop and the environment can be saved.

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